Allanna paced the length of the master bedroom while Xavier tried to console her, but to no avail.
“Allanna,” he said as she walked in front of the fireplace for probably the twentieth time, “Linley will be all right. I know she’s sorry for what she did, and I know that won’t change things, but we need to discuss the best course of action here.”
“What course of action is there? Take her out of school? That’s the only thing we can do. We never should have let her talk us into going there anyway. It’s caused us both nothing but stress and worry ever since. And then we had the stupid notion to put the boys in too. Xavier, we can’t go on like this.”
“Calm down. You used to be a werewolf. Wouldn’t you have done the same thing for someone you cared about?”
“That’s not it, Xavier. Werewolves and vampires have different kinds of control. We thought Linley would be okay because she’s not full vampire or werewolf, but this is worse. She has both genes in her body, she’s got the urges to transform, hunt, and drink blood. She’s dangerous.”
Allanna's footfalls finally came to rest in front of the dresser, where she gazed at the picture of Linley as a toddler, as well as the pictures of their three children on the wall. Xavier stood up from the bed and wrapped his arms around his wife as he followed her gaze to a picture taken when Linley had been so innocent.
“The principal said she’d be seeing the counselor,” he said in what he hoped was a convincing tone. “I don’t think this will happen again.”
“What good will a human counselor do? Linley can’t tell the truth, and how do you know this won’t happen again? You know the worst part? Skyler isn’t Linley’s boyfriend. What if it had been Craig that was being threatened? Linley might have done more than make idle threats to this kid. She might have actually gone through with them.”
“I won’t deny that thought has crossed my mind a few times. But we have to trust her.”
“Xavier, you’ve never been a werewolf, so I don’t expect you to understand. When someone we care about is threatened, and we get mad enough, nothing can stop us from ripping out someone’s throat. That’s exactly what Linley threatened to do. That’s the wolf part of her talking. We can’t risk this happening again. I don’t think she, or the boys, should go back to school.”
“Why don’t we give Linley the benefit of the doubt and let her decide? She’s been in school for years and this is the first time we’ve ever had a serious problem with her.”
“She’s getting older, which means she’s getting stronger. It won’t get better, it’ll get worse.”
Xavier sighed. He was trying to look at the bright side of things, but he knew that Allanna was right. She’d been a werewolf before and she knew how those particular emotions worked. Linley possessed those emotions and those of a vampire, which made them even more heightened. There was no guarantee she wouldn’t lose control again, even if she did feel remorse afterward.
But what could they do? It would look even more suspicious if Linley suddenly stopped going to school after all this time. Plus, he didn't want to deprive his daughter of something that made her happy. What were they going to do?
Linley could hear her parents' conversation clearly through the walls of her bedroom. They must've forgotten to take into account the fact that she could hear every word they said from her adjacent room. It made her sad to think of being pulled out of school, but it made her feel even worse that they were losing their trust in her. She tried to block them out by moving from her bed to her chair, but her efforts were futile. She sank down onto the floor and bowed her head.
As if it weren't hard enough that she was the only one of her kind in existence. By defending her friend, though her intentions were noble, she'd put herself and her family at risk of exposure. No normal human could have the strength she had, unless the human in question was a body builder or something. But obviously she wasn't that; to her peers, she was just a 16-year-old girl who'd been pushed over the edge and who'd transformed into a monster before their very eyes.
In Twilight, when Edward had stopped the van from crushing Bella, his excuse had been an adrenaline rush. Perhaps she could use that. She highly doubted any boys, especially Craig, had seen the movie, so surely they couldn't piece the two together. Right?
Linley glanced up at her clock. School would be out soon, and she'd been gone for the last half of the day. She wondered if anyone noticed, or if anyone even cared. She also wondered what she was going to say to Craig.
But before she could contemplate that, her cell phone vibrated shrilly from her desk. She shuffled over to answer it, glancing at the ID first to see that it was Chelcie.
"Hello?" she asked cautiously, after speeding outside and into the pool house where she hoped to have some privacy away from her parents' keen hearing ability.
"Linley? Oh my God, what happened? I heard you beat the shit out of Derek and then got suspended!"
"No, that's not quite right. I threatened him and told him to stop picking on Skyler for being gay, and a bunch of people saw it. I cussed him out pretty good too."
"The word is that Craig was there too, and he looked downright freaked out."
"Yeah, I saw it. Wait, aren't you in class? How are you calling me?"
"I asked for a bathroom pass and snuck in here. I wasn't gonna wait until the stupid last bell rang to ask you what the hell was going on. But you're not here, so where are you?"
"I'm at home. The principal called my parents and they thought I better come home."
"Wow, for getting into a fight? If I'd have known that would get me out of school so easy, I would have started beating Derek up a long time ago."
"It's not exactly a picnic. They're totally pissed off at me and they're considering pulling me out of school permanently."
"What? Why? You have to go to school, it's the law."
"They're...big on the home school thing. That's what I did before I came to elementary school, and it sounds like they're considering doing it again."
Chelcie groaned on the other end of the line before saying in an aghast voice, "No offense, but home schooling is a total crock. I think it's bullshit."
"You and me both. And I can safely say that because I've lived through it."
"Oh, I just wish I could have seen Derek's face! You know, I even heard this crazy rumor that you picked him up by his neck! But I was like, no way. That's not possible because you'd have to be some sort of super hero to do that."
Linley chuckled nervously. She didn't want to lie to Chelcie, but she couldn't deny the truth, either. Especially not when there were several witnesses that could attest to that so-called rumor.
The sound of the bell echoed sharply through the bathroom that Chelcie was in. She said, "Oops, there's the bell. I have to catch the bus today, but I'll talk to you later. Keep me posted!"
"I will, I promise."
Linley hung up the phone and stared down at it, feeling morose. She gave the digital clock on the phone another ten minutes before hesitantly dialing Craig's number. The phone rang for what seemed like an eternity until Craig's voice finally answered, "Hey."
Not the best way to start an apologetic conversation that would probably end in heart break.
"Listen," she tried instead, "about today..."
"I've been thinking about that. You know, I blame myself."
Linley almost dropped the phone. "What?!"
"Yeah, I should have stepped in to help you with that asshole. He had no right putting Sky down like that, and you were just trying to help him. I guess I was just surprised because I've never seen that side of you before. You know, the whole bad girl thing."
"Uh...well, listen, I had an adrenaline rush, and I didn't mean for it to go so far, but..."
"Hey, you know what, the bastard had it coming. He's been a little bitch in the three years I've known him, and you've known him longer than I have. I have to admit, I was downright shocked when I saw you pick him up like that, but I guess an adrenaline rush would cause it."
"Yeah, I didn't mean to do that. I was just...tired of him picking on people all the time, and what he said to Sky wasn't right."
"No, it wasn't. But there's still one thing I don't get. Even with that adrenaline rush, how did you get there so fast? I swear you were standing by me one minute and the next, you were a blur and then you were in his face."
Linley bit her lip. An adrenaline rush might not explain that as well, but it was worth a shot. She couldn't tell him the truth.
"Uh...well, honestly, I think that's part of the adrenaline rush. I was so determined to stop Derek before he could hurt Sky anymore that I didn't think. I ran as fast as I could."
"Man, if that's how you run when you're pissed, I'd hate to compete against you in track. You ever think about joining?"
"Uh...organized sports aren't really my thing. I prefer to just run for fun instead of competing."
"You and I should have a race sometime then. You could give me a real run for the money. Pardon the pun."
"I may take you up on that."
Just then, Linley saw her brothers coming home, and she saw her parents looking out their bathroom window toward the pool house. She'd forgotten that those windows overlooked the backyard. They were motioning for her to come back inside.
"Hey, Craig," she said hastily, "I have to go for now, the parents want to talk about this. But I'll see you tomorrow. Or, I should anyway."
"Okay, see you. And by the way, I'll try to kill some of these rumors going around."
"Chelcie just called and told me about some of them."
"Yeah, I'll see if I can take care of it. Don't worry about it. Later."
Linley hung up the phone and then reluctantly sauntered back into the house. Her parents and brothers were having a discussion in the living room about today's events, and the conversation wasn't what Linley had expected regarding her 12-year-old siblings.
"Heck yeah I'll stay home!" Braden declared with certainty. "I'm sick of school, it's so boring."
"I'd rather stay here too," Jaden added, "but then we won't get to see all the cute girls."
"Damn, I forgot about that."
"Watch your mouth, Braden," Xavier said sternly.
Linley took a deep breath and walked into the room. Jaden turned to her and scoffed, "We could smell you back there, you know. You suck at hiding."
"Jaden," Allanna warned. Jaden just smirked and said, "I guess me and Braden should thank you cause you got us out of school."
"Yep," Braden added, "thanks to your little tantrum, Mom and Dad said we could do home schooling again if we want because they don't want us doing something like you did. Sweet!"
Linley gaped at her parents in shock. They'd seriously gone through with that? She had to rectify this situation, and fast.
"Mom, Dad," she said, "you can't just take them out of school. First of all, it's the law that they have to go, and second..."
"Linley," Xavier cut in, "We didn't give them an option. We told them what you did and mentioned that we were considering it, but nothing's written in stone yet."
"Well, don't do it. Don't deprive them of an education because of me. I said I was sorry, and I plan to make it right."
"And how do you plan to do that?" Allanna inquired. "Just tell everyone the truth?"
"No, I already covered it. Chelcie called and told me what the rumors were, so I came up with the perfect excuse - I had an adrenaline rush because I wanted to help my friend. That's it."
"You've been watching too much Twilight."
"Mom, please. It won't happen again, I swear to God. Do you think I wanted this to happen? I didn't! I never meant to hurt anyone!"
Linley collapsed onto the floor as she burst into tears. She'd been feeling guilty all day, but now that the situation was finally hitting her, she felt ten times worse. She didn't want to be dragged out of school for this, and she didn't want to be destitute of seeing her friends again.
She heard her parents sigh and looked up to see them exchanging glances. They then looked back at her and Allanna suggested, "Why don't we make a compromise?"
"Like what?" Linley asked.
"We'll let you go back to school, but if this happens again, that's it. You're going to be home schooled. No excuses, and no ifs, ands, or buts. Linley, I really do think you're sorry and you realize the seriousness of what you've done. I think you can have better control over yourself if you try."
"What about us?" Jaden wanted to know. Xavier looked at the twins and answered, "You're both staying in school. It's better for us that way, because we want to be able to blend in as easily as possible."
The boys both pouted, but Linley felt relieved. It was almost like a great burden had been lifted off her shoulders. Tomorrow was a new day, and she was ready to face it. She just hoped that the student population would be ready to face her.